We are all socialists

by Steve, September 10th, 2009

Fear mongering about socialism in America would be comical if it weren’t so damned frightening. What can the rest of the world think of us?

We spend twice as much per capita on health care, and still have tens of millions without access to basic, preventive care. Why do we pay so much and get so little? We’re the only industrialized nation on the planet without government-run universal health care.

The free market has failed miserably to provide this basic service of modern life anywhere nearly as efficiently and completely as the governments of every other industrialized democracy on Earth.

Those who bleat about “socialism” should pause and consider that insurance, after all, shares some very basic tenets with socialism, like shared responsibility for the greater common good. Moreover, the so-called free market would collapse without the socialized infrastructure that supports it. Take, for instance:

  • Our virtually 100% publicly-owned and maintained road system, from city streets to interstate highways
  • The air traffic control system
  • The self-funded, surprisingly efficient US Postal Service
  • Our public schools (lord knows I’ve had some criticisms of our local system, but it beats the alternative)
  • Public colleges and universities
  • A multitude of public water and sewerage systems
  • Many local public power systems and the federally-regulated national power grid
  • Federal unemployment insurance
  • Federal subsidy of an inadequately low minimum wage (the earned income tax credit)
  • And, of course, on-demand bailouts of the private financial system, whenever it gets itself into a pickle

Then of course there are all those horrible socialist “extras” like:

  • Libraries
  • Parks
  • Rec centers
  • Concert halls
  • Theatres
  • Art galleries
  • Mass transit

That’s right, folks, if you use any of those things (and you’d have to live off-grid in the wilderness to avoid them), you benefit from “socialism.” Has it taken away your freedom? Isn’t all government bad? Perhaps you should try living in Somalia for a while to experience the true libertarian paradise of no government. Don’t forget to pack your AK.

Two of the most popular government programs in the history of our nation are Social Security and Medicare. The only complaints are that they may become underfunded, and Medicare doesn’t cover enough. But nobody complains about inefficiency.

The single easiest thing we could do to solve our health care crisis (not just kick it down the road a few years) is to go to a single payer system like the rest of the industrialized world. Expand Medicare to cover all citizens, paid for with a payroll tax as it is today. Yes, your medicare tax would go up, but you would no longer have an insurance premium. Worst case, it would be a wash, but more likely, your out of pocket expenses would go down as we eliminate a significant amount of overhead currently going to duplication of administrative services, profit, and executive compensation.

The fact that this simple, efficient and cost-effective solution isn’t on the table is indicative of the power the insurance industry has over President Obama and Congress. The fact that so many Americans fear even a modest expansion of public health insurance is indicative of not only American provincialism, but also of the dearth of real news reporting that goes beyond repeating the industry message.

Things you don’t see in Oregon

by Steve, September 8th, 2009

Monarch caterpillars:
monarch caterpillars

In a Mingus mood

by Steve, September 4th, 2009